This earphone is quite unorthodox in its tuning though it sounds quite nice to the ear nonetheless. It has a primary focus on higher frequencies with a more reserved bass and vocal forward midrange. As bass has nice sub-bass slam and strong extension, it doesn’t sound sparse. Similarly, the upper-midrange isn’t overly enhanced, so this earphone doesn’t fatigue with excessive brightness or forwardness either. Still, those searching for body, warmth and naturalness will want to look towards the EN700 line-up, this earphone is clearly focused on atmosphere, clarity and presence.
As before, the EM3 comes with 2 sets of ear tips, bass and balanced. The bass tips increase low-end emphasis and provide a warmer sound with greater sub and mid-bass weight. They also slightly attenuate the high frequencies providing what is subjectively a more balanced sound to my ear. The following comments are with my preferred bass tips equipped.
Adopting a hybrid driver configuration, bass impresses with strong extension. Sub-bass is slightly emphasised, and the EM3 still delivers firm slam at the very bottom when called for. Mid-bass is neutral if not slightly attenuated. This creates a very neutrally toned low-end with great separation and definition enabled by a complete lack of bloat or muddiness. Upper-bass feeds smoothly into a neutral lower-midrange, it too does not contribute much warmth to the EM3’s sound, simply preventing it from falling into thinness. This tuning serves to heighten separation though detail retrieval will remain low without ample driver control. Luckily, this is not the case here, and the EM3 delivers a nicely detailed low-end emphasized by its clean tuning.
Control is not the highest but operates at a respectable level that is clearly higher than the EN700 earphones. In fact, it serves to amplify this earphone’s musicality as decay is very natural, granting notes a smoother texture. Moreover, the earphone still retrieves plenty of fine texture and avoids becoming overshadowed by the higher frequencies while retaining ample punch. The EM3 is not a bass-heavy earphone but it doesn’t come across as anaemic either, aided by the natural decay of its dynamic driver. This is a delightfully musical and pleasantly resolving low-end if not a large or hyper-defined one and I find it a great complement to the rest of the EM3’s sound.
Simgot have tastefully tuned the lower-midrange to provide adequate body without introducing a hint of warmth. Rather, the EM3’s midrange is a touch cool and on the thinner side as far as body is concerned. Vocals sit at the fore with rising emphasis to a 2KHz hump before a smooth dip into a 4KHz trough. As we’ve seen before, this tuning does well to counteract the effects of a lower-treble peak and the same result is achieved here; the EM3 presenting pleasantly smooth vocals that avoid over-articulation.
Due to the nature of its tuning, female vocals take consistent precedence over male vocals though both are well-present especially in comparison to its reserved low-end. Midrange notes don’t sound perfectly filled in as a result of lesser quantity within the lower registers. Vocals are clean, slightly thin but also highly clear and intelligible. They are also notably more intimate than instruments benefitting pop, jazz and ballad.
Treble defines the EM3’s sound having the most prominence and drawing the most attention in kind. Lower-treble stands out most, continuing crescendo from the earphone’s 4KHz trough. It isn’t overly sharp or metallic as the 6-KHz region isn’t overly emphasized, however, the earphone remains crisp with an immediate detail presentation. Foreground detail is copious though treble instrumentation is thinned out as a result. Middle-treble also carries emphasis which serves to open up its soundscape in light of its less present upper-midrange.
Despite having heaps of detail presence, the EM3 is not the most detailed earphone I have heard around its asking price. This mainly comes down to the nature of its treble tuning which compromises natural timbre and body in favour of said crispness and presence. Moreover, the foreground tends to overshadow background details and though extension is admirable, sparkle and micro-detail don’t draw attention like the foreground.
The EM3 delivers a reasonably large stage despite not possessing the cleanest or darkest background nor the highest foreground/background separation. However, the nature of its tuning heightens separation between the three core frequency bands, bass, mids and treble, and this contributes to the impression of a more spacious stage as each element is given more space to breathe. In reality, the stage is not so expansive, rather, each note is smaller leading to very high separation. Imaging is quite sharp, a product of decisive directional cues and generally swifter transients. That said, as aforementioned, layering is not this earphone’s forte and placement can be less discerned than more balanced earphones.
The EM3 has a lower impedance with an average sensitivity. It is easy to drive but needs a little more voltage to reach high volumes than most earphones around this price. Nonetheless, it isn’t picky about sources and isn’t overly affected by output impedance, as it isn’t overly sensitive, it doesn’t pick up much hiss either. As such, it will play happily from a smartphone and a budget DAP such as the Shanling M0 will do a terrific job. It does scale somewhat with higher end sources, for instance, switching to the iBasso DX200 w/AMP5 yielded a wider soundstage and more extended bass. Its sound became slightly more detailed and bass was more controlled.
Campfire Audio Comet ($200): The EM3 has a brighter sound than the Comet. It has more extended sub-bass and greater slam at the bottom. Both have a slightly fuller mid-bass while the Comet has additional upper-bass that provides a warmer sound where the EM3 sounds quite clean and tonally neutral. The EM3 has the thinner, clearer midrange as a result. It has more vocal presence and considerably more upper-midrange, sounding more extended but also not quite as dense and accurately bodied.
The EM3 has more detail presence, though details stand out more on the Comet as it the frequency band is more isolated. Both earphones have a thinner treble presentation though the EM3 has a brighter background. Neither are especially well-layered, the Comet is more balanced and coherent while the EM3 has better separation.
Fiio FH5 ($260): The FH5 is a fuller, more balanced earphone. It has more sub-bass quantity and slightly stronger extension. The FH5 also has more mid-bass, sounding warmer and generally more impactful. Its midrange is less present in general, though fuller bodied on account of a sharper 4K dip combined with greater overall bass quantity. It doesn’t sound quite as extended or as clean but does sound slightly more natural.
Treble is more detailed on the FH5, and instruments have more appropriate body. On the flipside, the EM3 has more headroom and air, it is brighter and crisper which some may prefer. The FH5 has a more rounded soundstage and superior imaging though the EM3 has superior separation by a fair degree.
Final E5000 ($280): The E5000 has a warmer and more natural sound. Its sub-bass is more extended and it has more emphasis. It has a touch more mid-bass and more upper-bass that slopes more sharply into the lower-midrange. As such, it is warmer and doesn’t sound quite as clean, however, its bass is also more controlled and tighter, delivering more definition and detail.
The E5000 has a warmer midrange, vocals aren’t as prominent but are well-balanced and very natural. It has a touch of lower-treble emphasis but isn’t nearly as bright as the EM3, again, aiming for a more natural sound. It is just as detailed if not more so and its treble extends just as well too. Both construct a large soundstage, the E5000 images better but isn’t quite as separated due to its fuller tuning.
Shozy BG ($280): The BG is more balanced but shares a brighter background and vocal prominence. It has slightly less sub-bass extension. The BG has a touch less mid-bass but also more upper-bass and a lower-midrange so it sounds more integrated. It has faster decay and greater control, retrieving more bass detail. The BG has a more coherent midrange, it has some centre and upper-midrange peaks but it has more body than the EM3.
Vocals are more prominent on the BG due to its centre midrange prominence though arguable, the EM3 sounds more natural as it is more smoothly sculpted, the BG having a slightly off vocal timbre. The BG is more detailed and has more air, it has strong treble extension and a larger soundstage. It sounds more layered and both are very well separated.
Oriveti New Primacy ($300): The New Primacy is a more balanced earphone overall. It has slightly less sub-bass extension and less quantity. It has similar mid-bass quantity and a touch more upper-bass sounding nicely full. The New Primacy is more aggressively textured and sounds more defined even if it is less separated. The New Primacy also has slightly forward vocals but it doesn’t have the same clarity with a more linear midrange with a slightly attenuated upper-midrange.
Contrarily, the EM3 sounds a lot clearer but also thinner, its notes aren’t as wholly resolved and it isn’t as layered. Both have lower-treble emphasis, the New Primacy is more detailed and has more body, it has an inverse middle-treble that is quite dark while the EM3 is bright. As such, the New Primacy sounds cleaner and more stable where the EM3 sounds more energetic and open.
We see a recurring theme with Chi-Fi earphones that offer strong quality for the asking price in addition to unique tunings that seek to further emphasize these qualities. In so doing, one can argue that they come across as overly coloured, lacking the natural timbre and coherence of western competitors. On the contrary, there’s no denying that these models offer strong quality for their asking price. The EM3 exemplifies this; though reserved, it has an excellent bass performance and superb vocal clarity.
Similarly, its high-end is bright and its background isn’t the cleanest, but it doesn’t fall into the same trap as most brighter earphones, effectively avoiding sharpness and fatigue. The EM3 ultimately comes across as a nicely refined earphone tuned intentionally for vocal clarity and separation over superficial brightness that masks a deficit of underlying quality. The EM3 offers the technical performance missing from the EN700 series and constructs a revealing yet musical image upon a solid technical foundation.